Monet, Matisse, Renoir, van Gough -- the enduring quality these pedagogues of painting possess is their genius command of hue.
True, not all of us were gifted with the ability to gloriously render colors across a canvas, but that does not mean that you should shy away from employing stunning shades in your home. With just a few thoughtful touches, the right color splashes can turn a lackluster space into a decorating masterpiece.
Color me beautiful
Do not let lack of chromatic experience intimidate you -- your hesitation is not uncommon. Interior designer and owner of Gallery Interiors Stephanie Booth can attest, "One of the most frequently asked questions we hear at our store is, ‘How can I add color to my home'?"
The first step is selecting your palette. Booth recommends, "A great way to get started is by borrowing a favorite color from an area rug, painting or treasured collection." Have you always been taken with the deep burgundy of your heirloom china? Perhaps the golden sun in an oil painting perpetually catches your eye.
For those whose follow fashion rather than interior design, Jeremiah Young, creative designer of Kibler & Kirch, suggests, "Open your closet -- find the colors that flatter you. Think about when people say, ‘I love that color on you'. I encourage people to pull from their wardrobe." If your eyes pop when you wear a certain royal blue sweater, imagine how they will dazzle offset by a sofa of the same shade.
If you have avoided sporting bold shades in your home design, congratulations. Your naturally neutral habitat is actually the perfect setting to commence an exploration into the dazzling world of color.
Investing in an inspirational accent is an excellent way to jumpstart your theme. "If you have neutral walls and furnishings, go rug shopping," proposes Young, "Find a rug with colors that really speak to you, pick out the shades you love and find pillows and artwork in the same tones."
Through your personal preferences, the style of the motif will evolve. "Bringing color into your home can brighten your outlook, show off your personality or set a mood," notes Booth.
Young agrees, "It is important that your selection nourishes your soul."
Contrast and consistency
Once you have chosen a color, employing it thoughtfully is the next challenge. For those who did not major in fine art, learning a few basic tricks of the trade can have a significant impact.
"When using color, a touch of contrasting color is lively and refreshing," says Booth. "But beware, too many color contrasts can give a spotty, confused look, with colors competing for attention."
In layman's terms, contrasting colors mean shades that are on opposite sides of the color wheel. Purple and yellow, blue and orange, red and green when mixed together cancel each other out, giving the viewer a sense of balance. We can play with contrasting color by adjusting the shades -- red transforming to pink, green tempered to turquoise.
Using caution, however, is paramount. In the fashion world, think about the sharpness of a salmon tie with blue stripes against a simple white shirt and grey suit. Now recall Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels sporting two full tuxedos in the same shades in the film "Dumb Dumber." The tie is the very image of taste; the tuxedos bring light to the title of the movie. The lesson here is that just because colors may contrast perfectly, too much is not a good thing.
Young is an advocate of using the surrounding environment when looking for guidance in color use. "There are colors that work very well for our part of the world," says Young. "Colors that attempt to mirror the kind of nature we have here is very nurturing to people. It gives them a sense of comfort and home."
If green is your color of choice, leave the lime and neon to warmer climates and instead play with tones like sage or evergreen. Try complementing it with rich reds, or red's color wheel neighbor, lavender.
Young also speaks of the importance of consistency. "Weave a common color or theme throughout your home, so your design feels whole and complete, as opposed to a series of disjointed rooms.
Trial by tones
Transitioning to the bold, beautiful world of Technicolor does not have to be instantaneous.
Booth advises, "Layer color slowly until you feel you have a comfortable balance that works for you and your family." Throws, pillows, vases and art are quick, inexpensive and easy ways to experiment with color. Booth adds, "A dark corner can take on a color transformation simply by adding a good lamp."
Experimentation is crucial, as you cannot tell how the colors will interact with the natural light until you see them in action. "You can't get much cheaper than paint," Young notes, "Take an old piece of furniture and paint it a fun shade. If the shade doesn't work, you can easily try something else.
Those who feel confident with their palette might be ready to take the plunge into a bigger color investment. "Carefully shop for an accent chair, a piece of painted furniture or an area rug," says Booth. "Find a quality, basic sofa that will complement your accent colors, remembering that you may want to change them from time to time."
Expert refinement can also be a tremendous asset. Young encourages those on color quests to seek advice on projects large and small. "We genuinely love inspiring people to create a better sense of home."